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Researching at Lovejoy Library: Primary vs. Secondary

Primary vs. Secondary

It is important to know the relationship of the creator to the topic they are sharing or evaluating.  Your professor may require you to use only primary sources, only secondary sources, or a mixture of both.

It can be confusing when different subject areas define primary and secondary sources differently.

In general, a primary source was created during a research study, or event. Primary sources include journals, diaries, letters, photographs, speeches, recordings, artifacts, and original research. Creators of primary sources have direct experience conducting a study, participating in an activity, or witnessing an event. Primary sources are generally considered more accurate. Be aware that primary sources can still have bias based on the creator's bias, intended audience, and purpose.

Authors of secondary sources gather a variety of primary sources related to a specific topic, or event. These sources evaluate the primary sources in connection with each other to get a broader picture of an event or research. Again, be aware of the bias of the secondary researcher in choosing sources and evaluating primary sources. When possible, follow the citations given in secondary sources to verify the accuracy of the interpretations.

Created by Scribner Library, Skidmore College with Camtasia Studio and Prezi. July 2015.